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amnesiac siblings


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  • From The language laboratory and language learning by Julian Dakin, Longman, 1973, page 33.

    The case of the amnesiac siblings

    There once came into my hands the manuscript of a proposed primary school course for foreign learners. The course was described by the author as being structural, situational, contextual, and logical. Each lesson began with a conversation between two English children. In the first conversation they find out each other's names by the simple expedient of asking:

    What is your name?

    When they next meet in Lesson 2, having meanwhile forgotten, they play the Rumpelstiltskin game:

    Is your name John? No, it isn't.

    Is your name Henry? No, it isn't.

    Is your name Sebastian?


    Failing to guess aright, they eventually resort to the direct question form of Lesson 1. In Lesson 3 they have again been overcome by a loss of memory. They repeat the guessing game until some dim stirring of recollection prompts the right suggestion and the gratifying answer: "Yes, it is." In Lessons 4 and 5 they change the subject. The conversation runs on the following lines:

    Is that a bag? Yes it is.

    Is it a book? No, it isn't.

    Is it a table? No, it isn't.

    What is it? It's a bag.

    In Lesson 6 it turns out that the boy and the girl are brother and sister.

    December 5, 2008